Monday, May 31, 2010

Native American Art at Bonhams & Butterfields June 7th in San Francisco

Highlights for June include the large and fine collection of early silver, turquoise, coral and shell jewelry from the Breitbart Collection, which includes Navajo, Hopi, Pueblo and Zuni bracelets, necklaces and a first-phase Navajo concha belt with eight oval silver conchas, expected to bring $18/28,000.

Click here for the complete catalogue listing.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

North Africa: Art Nouveau Jewelry Gets a Rebirth in Tunis

Think of Tunis, and Art Nouveau may not spring to mind, yet this North African city has its very own Art Nouveau tradition, combining the influences of the European arts and crafts movement and Tunisian folk art. The French colonial presence from 1881 to 1956 marked the local architecture, design and jewelry with the European styles of the time, reinterpreted in an Arabian mode.

Memories of that intricately hybrid style are re-emerging now in modern designs, as a generation of young jewelers turns to 1900 Tunis for inspiration, while demonstrating a novel interest in the technical know-how and customs of their country.

“Art Nouveau comes from the idea that straight lines in nature don’t exist — and this works particularly well with our tradition of nonfigurative, organic design, and of repetition and arabesque,” said Sarra Jawaher Soussi, a professor of fashion and art history, with specialization in jewelry, in the design section of Collège LaSalle in Tunis.

“The idea of flora and fauna is present, but local flowers were used, and animals were chosen according to various propitiatory and prophylactic beliefs, their power to protect, to bring luck and prosperity,” Ms. Soussi said. “In other words, it is typically Art Nouveau in principle, but definitely North African in its interpretation.”

The same mix of Art Nouveau aesthetics and Tunisian tradition informs the work of the new generation of designers. Aycha Ben Chérif is one. A self-taught jeweler, she learned the trade by watching artisans and goldsmiths in the souks, the ancient and still-thriving markets in Arab cities.

Her work juxtaposes an Art Nouveau sensitivity for curves and materials with Berber references. For example, she uses local symbols of luck — such as the fish or the khamsa, the hand that protects against the evil eye — reinterpreting them, true to the early 20th-century style, in natural materials and semiprecious stones such as coral or turquoise, delicately inserted into gold frames and chains.

“My discovery of South Tunisian traditional jewelry was a revelation,” Ms. Ben Chérif said in an interview. “I like to reinvent elements of the local heritage so they can be worn today.” In some pieces, she uses elements of traditional bridal wear, with a neo-Art Nouveau twist. “These traditional pieces cover the entire chest with filigree, semiprecious stones and engraved coins,” she said. “I keep the shape and some of the elements, but I give them a new meaning.”

Her technique remains close to the ancient ways of cutting and using diamonds and other precious materials. “Aycha makes flowers set with chichkhan, diamond chips cut in an artisanal technique that was used before today’s modern carving methods,” Ms. Soussi said.

Neila and Meriem Sherif are an aunt-and-niece design duo whose work finds a starting point in family jewels inherited from Neila’s grandmother, dating to the 1900s. Those typical Tunisian Art Nouveau pieces, with their use of drop shapes and other natural forms, are redolent of the European fine jewelry of the time — from Tiffany, Fabergé and Lalique, among others. But they also incorporate local, traditional emblematic elements, such as bees, spiders, snakes, dragonflies, turtles, birds and indigenous flowers.

“This is part of our patrimony,” Meriem Sherif said. “Each has its own story. We’re very superstitious here.”

Yet the pieces are updated by a choice of nontraditional materials and finishes. “The original models used to be made on red, blackened gold, with precious stones,” Neila Sherif, the aunt, said. “We now use different stones, with newer colors that weren’t available back then, on yellow gold.”

In technique, too, their work is inspired by the precision characteristic of 1900s jewelry. “Rings today are much more simple, with only four claws,” she said. “Traditionally, Tunisian rings were a lot more intricate, with a bigger, more chiseled frame and a large cabochon. That is something we kept in our design.”

The pair often designs traditional crowns and headpieces for brides to wear at their weddings. “There is a definite return to tradition,” she said. “There has been an overflow of Europeanization. The girls all used to want Western-style weddings, but now traditional weddings are in again, and that’s why they are turning to us for classical pieces.”

For Dorra Sassi, a Tunis-born designer who trained in Paris and worked in a studio that designed jewelry for Chanel, Tunisian Art Nouveau has a more subliminal influence. Ms. Sassi, who returned to Tunisia last year to set up her own brand, D.S., has produced a collection that offers a baroque take on Art Nouveau, with gold bows and pearls. Although she says that she does not recognize any direct reference to her Tunisian heritage, she also says she senses the influence in her work.

“If you ask me, my inspirations are totally Parisian,” Ms. Sassi said. “Yet the only time I feel truly Tunisian is when I start making bigger pieces. Girls here like jewelry to be highly visible.”

Ms. Soussi, the art history professor, has a psychological explanation for the fashion shift. “The recurring reference to Art Nouveau is due to the fact that it was ‘la Belle Époque’ for Tunisia, which everybody subconsciously would like to relive,” she said. “The current neo-Art Nouveau jewelry scene, like the original one, is a melting pot of many different influences, and this is in the image of our country.

“You can detect Ottoman, Hispano-Moorish influences, and thousands of years of civilizations, and that’s Tunisia in a nutshell.”

Source: The NY Times

By: Alice Pfeiffer

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kenyan Carver Elkana Ong'esa to Unveil New Work at US Embassy in Nairobi

Kenyan soapstone carver Elkana Ong'esa has earned an international reputation for his carvings. His sculptures adorn the entrances of the United Nations building in New York and UNESCO's headquarters in Paris. Now a new work will be unveiled soon at the United States' embassy in Nairobi, inspired by Kenya's recent post-election violence.

Scenes of destruction, devastation and despair following the disputed Kenyan elections in late 2007, forever captured in a wooden sculpture.

The violence left a profound impression on Kenyan carver Elkana Ong'esa.

"This is the face," said Elkana Ong'esa. "There is a big crack there. That crack was left there deliberately to show the way we were split into pieces. But this same head, that same head, now we are looking at it from here, it has been cut."

Ong'esa chiseled that same passion into his 10-ton sculpture that graces the entrance to the U.S. Embassy in Kenya's capital. Ong'esa says the statue, titled "Dancing Birds," acknowledges efforts by the United States and other countries to end the post-election violence. He says the statue also immortalizes peace.

"The birds had to run away," he said. "People were running away, animals were running away. So, when I am talking about peace and I am using the birds as a symbol, it is really to show that when happiness is there, when peace is there, everybody will be dancing."

Many of Ong'esa's works incorporate bird themes.

"Birds have got many different shapes which are so interesting - I enjoy those," said Ong'esa. "Then, the music - fantastic. They make me dream about shapes in sculpture when I'm listening to their sounds and looking at them."

Ong'esa explains that birds are central to his Kisii culture and that many songs have been written about them.

Ong'esa's Kisii area in southwestern Kenya is known for its soapstone carvings. He was born there in 1944.

The high school he attended did not offer fine art as a subject, but one teacher recognized his talent and trained him.

He later studied fine art at Uganda's Makerere University, and worked for many years as an art teacher in Kisii in addition to being a sculptor.

Ong'esa's retired from teaching in 1990, but has kept busy with his sculpting and mentoring young artists. He is also president of the Pan African Association of Visual Artists.

"We want to see how African art can be appreciated all over the world," he said. "We are in the process of creating a website, a website that will portray the real values of African art, bring the old, the present and the future in terms of art. We are trying to see how museums in Africa can enhance the collection of African art. Can they support African artists, can they support young artists?"

Ong'esa says one of his passions is to raise the profile of Africa artists at home and in the world.


By: Cathy Majtenyi

Friday, May 28, 2010

African and Modern Twist in the Hamptons

a fusion platform of organic art
co-curated by Genita Ingram and Esperanza Leon
22 May - 7 June 2010
Including African Tribal Arts and abstract works by emerging artist, Mago*.

The African and Modern Art Show “A Fusion Platform of Organic Art” is organised as a fundraiser to express appreciation for the Human Rights Campaign, a diverse grassroots constituency with over 750,000 members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organization in the country, HRC envisions an America where LGBT citizens are ensured their basic equal rights and can be open, honest, and safe at home, at work, and in the community.

The featured artist is Mago*, presenting No man’s land but everyone’s territory, a modern art series of fundamental graphic elements, inspiration, and work in New York City.

The celebrated Bengally Collection of Tribal Art from Africa showcases an authentic collection of hand-carved sculptures, life-like masks, delicate glass beads, and hand-woven textiles.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Collection of Robert Bleakley to be sold May 31 at Mossgreen

Mossgreen is delighted to offer the private collection of one of the most well-known figures in the Australian auction scene: Robert Bleakley. Robert founded Sotheby’s in Australia back in the 1980’s and before that he headed their tribal art department in London. As you will see from the collection online now, the auction is diverse and eclectic and reflects Robert’s many and varied interests. Highlights include Oceanic and Aboriginal art and artifacts as well as Scandinavian glass and European antiques.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Nigeria: Repositioning African Art With Afrocentric Affinities

With the current advancement in technology all over the world, African art, as it were has remained the same in the eyes of the world. Though several industries in Nigeria can be said to have evolved from the old way of doing things in recent times, Nigerian and indeed African art still has a lot to do to gain acceptance in the eyes of the world.

To some, African artists have not left their contemporary themes of paintings and they still rely on the old methods. To correct this impression is Nigerian born, but American-based seasoned artist, Ajogu Idachaba, who has come up with his exhibition titled, Afrocentric Affinities.

Said he: "I live in the U.S. and over time, I have found out that a lot of people have misconceptions about African arts and about how Africans approach art. People don't know what we have and they look at it within the context of being fetish. They don't understand that we have progressed beyond that point and even deep traits of contemporary art expressions can be found in most of our works and the way we use colours and so I use my work as a medium to address these. As much as we take the very traits that reflect our work, we also have to transcend that image that we have been boxed in"

The artist explains that the core emphasis of Afrocentricity as he puts it, is giving credence to what the people of African descent bring to the table of global discourse as it relates to culture, philosophy, history, economics and the dynamics of everyday life and living. The motifs that define our traditional architecture, our textile prints, sculpture pieces and our paintings and drawings - all seem to speak loudly of the undeniable weight of the riches and depth of our ethnic heritage.

"I want people to feel something heavy, ominous, powerful and compelling in my work at the same moment, not overlooking the underlining thread that defines who we are as a people with phenomenal ethnic values. I've never come across anyone working in the public sphere, in the arts, who has not had a longing to reach people. I've been opportune to study great minds within the creative community, and we all have this longing to connect," he added.
With over 30 works on display at the exhibition which is scheduled for May 15 to May 20, the artist said Afrocentric Affinities which comes in series is not an attempt to totally revamp African art but rather, to redefine its stance in the eyes of the world.

The array of colours on display at the exhibition testifies to the fact that Affrocentric Affinities as a topic might well have been addressed. Through several colour schemes, the artist tries to redefine Nigerian art in the eyes of his foreign counterparts. Sprout, for example is a work that stems from deep imagination of the evolution of flower. The artist explains that the work stems from his fascination of nature at work.

"I grew up in the village and my dad used to have a lot of farmlands and because of the artist in me, I usually am very fascinated at what I see in the bushes. Sometimes I switch off from everybody and when I see a flower that is sprouting, with intense observation, I look at the colours, the dynamics and even the entire beauty of nature and I take the image and store it in my memory until the right time when I want to put them on my canvass," he exlained.

This, he added, is a far cry from the regular painting of a Fulani woman carrying a calabash, a Yoruba man beating a drum or a Benin mask.

Though art has become more contemporary, the artist tries to draw a line between the modern and the old as reflected in the painting, Ethnic Percussions. Ethnic Percussions, in its own way tries to portray traditional topics and values, using a contemporary colour format.

On his choice of colour scheme, Idachaba said it is defined by his mood. Another sound, for instance, he said reflects excitement.

His words: "Sometimes I get so excited that it seems my heart is beating very fast; so I try to capture that moment with the colour scheme that comes to my mind."

Put together for over a period of three years, Idachaba explains that Affrocentric Affinities also tries to take art across several categories of people. "I've never known an artist who only wants to connect with intellectual elite, a very small fragment of our society where one's merit needs to be proven. Now, all of us who are ambitious want that as well. And all of us who go through a process of engaging in something like art-making are fully aware of how much we're chastened by education, by refining our impulses and our thinking and being able to consider deeper exploration. I love the philosophical, intellectual framing of things. I think it's incredibly rich," he said.

The Ahmadu Bello University trained artist who worked creatively for over 20 years, combining his formal training with being a studio artist, said when he entered the university he saw no need to formally study arts because his father had grilled him in the various aspects of it so much so that though he school in a secondary school where the subject of arts was not taught, he nevertheless took the subject during his General Certificate Examinations (GCE), and came out with an A.

"My father was very attentive to detail and he made sure I was just painting without purpose. Daily I got assignments from him, which I had to creatively produce and sometimes I would do over 10 works thinking I had created 10 masterpieces and he would look over them and choose just one.

Over the years Idachaba said he had experimented with various media in a bid to express his creative thoughts and he had discovered that the urgency of the work most times determined the medium with which he expressed it. He explains that when the creative release of a piece he had been brooding over hits, he normally preferred to use acrylic as his medium of expression because it dried quickly thus it allowed him work quickly. On the other hand, he says, whenever he wants to pace himself and exercise patience while painting aspects of a particular piece as the creative release comes, the use of oil becomes handy as no one can hurriedly finish a work of art that is based on oil.

From the U.S., Idachaba comes with a piece of advice for African artists. "I am very particular about the issue of patience. A lot of artists want to make it very fast. They have all the talents but they need to understand that the seasoning of an artist takes time. I have been painting for 20 years and I can not say that I have stepped into that point where I see tremendous success. There have been opportunities here and there but it takes time to come out as a seasoned artist. Also, a lot of artists here need to find a forum of collaboration. One of the tremendous points of artists and even the printing community in the United States is that they form themselves into coalitions and groups which give them a voice," he said.

By: Ovwe Medeme

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

African 'Magic' Influences Western Art in VU Exhibit

Gregg Hertzlieb, director of Valparaiso University's Brauer Museum of Art, can see the influence of the pieces in his "The Art and Magic of Africa" exhibit on some of the 20th Century's most acclaimed artists.

"Both Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse were very influenced by African tribal art," he said. "To look at the exhibit from the perspective of influencing modern artists can be a pretty neat way of looking at it."

Celebrating the opening of the exhibit with a reception at 7 p.m. Friday at Brauer Museum, "Africa" is made up of pottery, weapons, metal works, masks and carved figures created by African tribes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The artifacts that make up the exhibit are part of the collection of Beverly Shored-based dealer and collector Lawrence P. Kolton.

Kolton has spent more than four decades traveling the globe in search of tribal art. In 2005, he lent the Brauer Museum approximately 150 pieces of New Guinea tribal art for an acclaimed exhibit, "Art and the Spirit World of New Guinea."

Hertzlieb estimated that more than 300 artifacts from Kolton's collection will be on display in "Africa."

"I don't think there are a lot of people nowadays that could achieve what these tribes people were able to achieve, not only with the materials and technique, but in terms of imagination and possibilities," Hertzlieb said. "If you look at the patterns and abstractions, it's just endlessly inventive."

Kolton is slated to be in attendance at Friday's reception to give a brief lecture. Hertzlieb is scheduled to host a gallery talk in relation to "Africa" at Brauer Museum at 7 p.m. July 21.

"(Kolton is) really excited about this African show, because it shows some of his best stuff," Hertzlieb said.

The Brauer Museum of Art is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Brauer Museum of Art, Valparaiso University, 1709 Chapel Drive, Valparaiso

By TIM SHELLBERG - Times Correspondent

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sculpture Deemed Too Complex for Africa Could Be Real After All

Ever since a pure copper sculpture was found buried in a palm grove near the Nigerian city of Ife, experts from the West have argued that the artefact was a fake that was too sophisticated to have been created by African hands.

Found in 1910, the "Olokun head" left Western curators doubting that such a technically advanced work of art could have been created by indigenous people. Years later, they even began to doubt its authenticity, claiming that the original had been sold illegally and the one which remained in Nigeria was an ingenious copy. But now, new science is set to turn past wisdom on its head. There is a growing belief among contemporary curators that the "counterfeit" sculpture is the real thing, according to The Art Newspaper.

When it first travelled to the British Museum in 1948, it was exhibited as a copy; scholars claimed it was made from a blend of ancient materials that had been melted down, while the real work of art was thought to have been smuggled out of Africa by a European or American collector. The artwork, now on its second visit to the British Museum, where it is currently displayed again as a "replica" will undergo a thorough scientific investigation next month to establish the truth, once and for all.

Nigel Barley, a former British Museum curator who briefly examined the head in January, believes it may well be the original. Enid Schildkrout, from New York's Museum for African Art and curator of the current exhibition at the British Museum, agrees. If, she said, the real treasure had in fact been stolen, "it is surprising that the original has never reappeared".
It was first found by Leo Frobenius, a German anthropologist who had heard rumblings of a buried sculpture in a palm grove, just outside Ife, near a shrine dedicated to the goddess of the sea, Olokun. He organised a dig to investigate, and found the artwork.

Some days later, the colonial administration seized the sculpture on the grounds that it was sacred and should be returned to its original site, before it was transferred to the Ife Museum. One theory that emerged was that Frobenius commissioned a replica when he was instructed to hand over the artefact, and smuggled the original out of the country.

At the time of discovery, the head was considered too great a masterpiece to have been created by indigenous African artists a reflection of prevailing attitudes of the early 20th century. Some Europeans even theorised that the work was a remnant from the lost city of Atlantis. A spokeswoman for the British Museum said when the head travelled to the West, it caused a huge stir because "it flew in the face of Western perceptions" (of African heritage and cultural achievements).

It is now accepted by the curatorial community that the advanced artistic techniques used to create the sculpture were "more advanced than those of Renaissance Italy, and comparable to those of [the artist] Donatello".

Such sculptures, discovered in Nigeria and neighbouring Benin, were sold on the open market for under £100, in some instances, during the 1950s. This particular work was surrounded by various myths and beliefs, but it was not actually examined until 1948, when it left Nigeria and specialists at the British Museum declared it was a replica.

Since then, curators have cast doubt over the idea that Frobenius organised the deceit, not least because it is highly unlikely that such a complicated replica which was found to be made from authentically ancient materials could have been made in such a short space of time.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

African Aesthetics Presented in Context at University of Memphis

A new permanent installation, "Africa: Visual Arts of a Continent," gives locals another reason to enjoy the Art Museum of the University of Memphis.

Coordinated with an academic program to debut this fall — Arts of Africa and the African Disapora — the gallery space will stage annual exhibits that look at said art through the combined disciplines of art history and anthropology.

The first show, "Art in the Land of Sundiata," presents several dozen pieces from the Martha and Robert Fogelman Collection of African Art, a gift of nearly 200 pieces given to the university in 2008. Its title refers to Sundiata Keita, the revered 13th century Malian leader dubbed the "Lion King." As such, displayed objects reflect the cultures, beliefs and aesthetics of people linked historically to the Mali Empire, specifically the Dogon, Bamana, Senufo and Marka.

The idea, according to AMUM assistant director Lisa Francisco Abitz, is to provide a more appropriate frame of appreciation and understanding, where African art can be "interpreted as a broader cultural thing and not so focused on art for art's sake."

Exhibit curator and UofM associate professor of art history Earnestine Jenkins agrees and says that a prevailing issue for contemporary curators is how to properly present African art. Many pieces, for example, are architectonic — they are works of art that also function architecturally, such as the Dogon house post on display.

"One of the problems with exhibiting African art is that in the past it was done out of context," says Jenkins. "Also, you cannot talk about African art without talking about the history — colonization, slavery, race — because museums' major collections today came after colonization. So you have to connect those things."

A related exhibit, "Sogo Bò: The Animals Come Forth," which runs through Sept. 11 in the museum's adjunct gallery space, looks at a single cultural event — puppet masquerades by youth societies in the south-central Ségou region of Mali. Nearly 20 objects and video footage of a festival are featured; they come from a more extensive exhibit curated by Mary Jo Arnoldi of the Smithsonian Institution.

A museum exhibitions class put together the show, an appropriate gesture given that Sogo Bò is a youthful form of expression. As class instructor and UofM Egyptian art curator Patricia Podzorski notes, the traditional event and its highly colorful, fantastic creations are at once entertainment and commentary, where the young can satirize society in a way that is not destructive to the culture.

"Because it is run by young persons, change is actually built into it," she says. "Questioning authority is built into it. Tweaking the nose of social convention is appropriate. It's an opportunity for youth to act out in a sanctioned format."

"Art in the Land of Sundiata" and "Sogo Bò: The Animals Come Forth"

"Sundiata" is on display for one year, and "Sogo Bò" shows through Sept. 11; Art Museum of the University of Memphis, 142 Communication Fine Arts Building. Call 678-2224, or go to

By: Bill Ellis

Saturday, May 22, 2010

African Art Museum to stay in Historic Oakland for now

The African Art Museum of Maryland will continue to operate in Historic Oakland for another year, heading off an impending relocation at the end of the month that operators say would have proved a real hardship for the not-for-profit organization.

But while the museum will not have to move, the search for more spacious quarters, with improved accessibility and visibility, is continuing, Doris Ligon, the museum's director, stressed.

A new lease with the Town Center Village Association that would begin June 1 is being reviewed by the museum's attorney, and Ligon said she expects it to be signed and delivered by Monday.

"Many people intervened on our behalf since the first newspaper article [on April 23] alerted them to our plight," she said. "But we're not going to let ourselves get that close to being without a home again."

The museum had given two months' notice in August that it would not renew its lease with the village association, which operates the 19th-century manor home off Vantage Point Road on behalf of the Columbia Association. Ligon founded the museum in 1980 with her husband, Claude, and it has been housed at Historic Oakland since 1989.

That five-year contract was due to expire Nov. 30, 2009, but was extended by six months to May 31, 2010, at the request of the museum's board of trustees.

But as the end of May approached, the museum had not managed to secure new quarters and the village association had begun its search for a replacement tenant. Now the museum has 12 more months to continue the hunt.

A year was the minimum term offered by the village association, Ligon said, and the museum's monthly rent was raised by nearly $200, to $1,400.

"As a nonprofit organization we'd rather not pay more, of course, but we didn't haggle over the increase; we believe it to be fair," she said.

Joel Abramson, attorney for the village association, said the village board should be commended for it decision to work with the museum's board.

"This is the best deal in town," said Abramson. "The board is not making any money on this and could have rented the space at a profit to someone else. But to their credit they made the decision to keep the museum in there, and we're happy to have them back for another year."

The museum is displaying 3,000 artifacts in 1,200 square feet of space on the second floor of Oakland, which can only be reached by stairs. Ligon estimated that 3,000 square feet is needed for optimum exhibition of the museum's holdings, noting that some items are in storage.

Housed in the galleries are a wall-sized mural, sculptures, wood carvings, musical instruments, masks, jewelry, baskets and textiles, all of which were donated.

"We need this year and we're very glad that we have it," Ligon said. "It's a relief to know we can continue to serve the public without interruption."

Source: The Baltimore Sun

Friday, May 21, 2010

Contemporary African Art in Havana

From a continent known for traditional symbolic production came to us a different type of exhibit. Pieces that mark the contemporaneity in African art —without ceasing to maintain its roots— are being exhibited this month in the Africa House of the Havana Office of the City Historian.

On display there are masks of wood and fiber that are used in ritual ceremonies, such as Muana Pwo, the first representation of the mythical woman of the Cokwe ethnic group in Angola; or the Bamoun mask of Cameroon, which is linked to the religion of that country and made of coins, wood and metal.

Also on view is a traditional door that reflects the Arab past of the Republic of Zanzibar, an oil painting by D. Sibanda from Zimbabwe, as well as audio-visual presentations that contain musical wealth as diverse as the peoples who form the African continent.

According to specialist Lazara Menendez, who inaugurated the exhibition, “The plurality of speech allows us to recognize diversified aesthetic experiences that nurture new re-conceptual readings of cultural legacy.” In this way we can enjoy everything from the most artisanal creations to technological advances traveling across dissimilar spaces of art in Africa, a pluri-cultural continent. “All that is lacking are works of art produced by women – an absence to keep in mind.”

The Africa Museum is devoted to research and the promotion of African culture and its impact in the formation of Cuban culture.

Source: Havana Times
By Irina Echarry

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sotheby's Sales of African, Oceanic, and Pre-Columbian Art Bring $12 Million

Sotheby’s spring sales of African, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian and American Indian Art brought a combined total of $12,383,819 today. The morning sale of African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian art brought a total of $9,915,376; Important American Indian, African, Oceanic and Other Works of Art from the Studio of Enrico Donati, totaled $1,023,004; and American Indian Art achieved $ 1,445,439.

African Art
Jean Fritts, Worldwide Director of African and Oceanic Art, commented, ‘‘We saw today a depth in the global bidding and buying as well as a great influx of new collectors entering the field at all levels of the market. It is clear that the market is truly global, and that it has expanded far beyond the traditional American and European collecting bases. We had strong participation from new buyers, some of whom participated at the highest level, and many of whom are familiar with other collecting areas and are entering the field of African and Oceanic Art to embrace works of the highest quality.’’

Heinrich Schweizer, Director of African and Oceanic Art in New York, noted, “It is significant to have two lots sell for over $2 million and to sell works at that level in both the African and Oceanic categories. We were also thrilled to achieve an average lot value of over $100,000 for the African and Oceanic works sold. Both of today’s top lots, the Lega Four- Headed Figure and the Biwat Male Ancestor Figure, were met with tremendous interest The prices achieved today are in line with the trend for iconic masterpieces seen over the last twelve months across collecting categories. Collectors compete vigorously for masterpiece quality. Historic price boundaries are wiped out and new records are set. We are currently experiencing a re-evaluation of the top of the market which increasingly closes the still existing gaps to other collecting areas such as modern and contemporary art.”

The morning sale of African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian art brought a total of $9,915,376, surpassing pre-sale expectations of $4.7/7.1 million. The sale was 95.3% sold by value and 79.9% sold by lot. Two works sold for more than $2 million and over half of the lots sold achieved prices in excess of their pre-sale high estimates. The auction’s highest price was achieved by a Lega Four-Headed Figure, Sakimatwematwe, Democratic Republic of the Congo, which sparked a battle between seven bidders. After several minutes, the piece finally sold to an anonymous bidder over the telephone for $2,210,500, more than forty times the expected price (est. $30/50,000) and achieved a world auction record for a Lega Figure. Also among the highlights of the African works on offer was a Banda Ancestor Figure from the Ubangi Region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo attributed to the Master of Mobaye, which sold for $326,500 (est. $250/400,000). Only eight figures have been attributed to the Master of Mobaye, who was active in the second half of the 19th century, and the present example is the only remaining figure on the market. A Fang Reliquary Head from Gabon with recently discovered exceptional provenance, including André Derain, achieved $326,500, surpassing a pre-sale estimate of $150/250,000.

Oceanic Art
The Oceanic works on offer were led by a Biwat (Mundugumor) Male Ancestor Spirit Figure from a Sacred Flute, wusear, Papua New Guinea, from the JOLIKA Collection of Marcia and John Friede, which was pursued by at least five collectors who pushed the final price to $2,098,500 (est. $1/1.5 million). No figure as complete or of such high quality is known ever to have appeared at auction. An Asmat Shield, Unir (Lorenz) River, Irian Jaya, also from the JOLIKA Collection, totaled $338,500, more than doubling the presale high estimate of $100,000. All eleven works offered from the JOLIKA Collection found buyers, with most achieving prices that were multiples of their presale estimates. A Rarotonga or Atiu Pole Club, Akatara, Cook Islands from a Private European Collection also performed well, bringing $326,500 (est. $250/350,000).

Pre-Columbian Art
Stacy Goodman, Senior Consultant, Pre-Columbian Art, said, ‘‘We achieved strong prices today, spurred by competition from a broad range of both new collectors and clients who have been participating in this field for many years. Our results show a continued enthusiasm for this collecting category, which is only represented once a year. Our annual sale is an anticipated event among collectors.’’

A rare Taino Wood Snuffer, Haiti, ca. AD 1300-1500 is one of only three known examples and has remained in the same collection since the 1930s; it sold today for $290,500, making it the top lot of the Pre-Columbian art offered this morning (est. $80/120,000). A Large Vera Cruz seated figure, Classic, ca. AD 450-650, of the El Zapotal style, a form which rarely appears at auction, was another highlight of the sale, selling for $278,500 (est. $125/150,000). A fine group of Costa Rican polychrome ceramics from a Private Collection sold extremely competitively due to the fine quality.

Important American Indian, African, Oceanic and Other Works of Art from the Studio of Enrico Donati
Speaking of today’s sales, David Roche, Senior Consultant, American Indian Art, said, “We are thrilled with the results of today’s sales. We received global interest in our sales, particularly the works from Enrico Donati’s collection, and we saw a large number of new clients bidding and buying. Private collectors were out in force today snapping up the best material, and we are delighted to have set a new world record for a basket at auction with the sale of the Large Yokuts Pictorial Coiled Gambling Tray.”

The day continued with a single-owner sale of Important American Indian, African, Oceanic and Other Works of Art from the Studio of Enrico Donati, which totaled $1,023,004 (est. $600/940,000). The auction was 95.7% sold by lot and 82.2% sold by value. The sale comprised works from Surrealist painter Enrico Donati’s studio in the landmark Gainsborough Building on Central Park South. In his studio, Donati mixed Eskimo masks and kachina figures with his own work, works of his contemporaries, found objects, stones, fossils, and the mystical mandragora root to create an entirely new world, and a fountain of inspiration.

The session’s top price was achieved by An Important and Rare Eskimo Polychrome Wood Mask, Yup’ik or Anvik, which totaled $362,500 (est. $300/500,000). The mask would likely have been used for both festival dancing and shamanistic activities, however its specific meaning remains an enigma, the mystery of which is part of the strong attraction Donati and his Surrealist compatriots had for Eskimo art during the middle of the 20th century. Donati’s collection of Hopi kachina dolls was also particularly sought-after, with many achieving prices that were many multiples of their estimates. A Large Hopi Polychrome Wood Kachina Doll depicting a Snake Priest was pursued by at least five collectors and brought a total price of $104,500 when it sold to a client bidding by telephone (est. $25/35,000). A Large Haida Wood Feast Bowl was also among the top lots of the sale and achieved $104,500 (est. $60/90,000).

A various-owner sale of American Indian Art followed, which achieved $ 1,445,439 (est. $1.1/1.5 million). The sale was 85.8% sold by value and 63.6% sold by lot and was led by A Large Yokuts Pictorial Coiled Gambling Tray, which totaled $374,500 (est. $180/220,000), setting a world record for a basket at auction.

Source: Art Daily

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

“Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art” at National Museum of African Art

“Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art,” a traveling exhibition that tells the story of the beautiful coiled basket, will be on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art from June 23 through Nov. 28. “Grass Roots” demonstrates the enduring contribution of African people and culture to American life in the southeastern United States.

The exhibit features about 200 objects, including baskets made in Africa and the American South, African sculptures, paintings from the Charleston Renaissance, historic photography and videos. It traces the history of the coiled basket on two continents and shows how a simple farm tool once used for processing rice has become a work of art and an important symbol of African American identity.

“Visitors will be stopped in their tracks by the exceptional beauty and artistry evident in baskets from Africa and the American South,” said Johnnetta Betsch Cole, director of the museum.

“In addition, they will learn about the important and enduring connections between Africa and the African diaspora, and how the cultivation of rice and the horrors of enslavement played a role in transmitting the knowledge of particular basket-making traditions from the African continent to the American South. Finally, it is my fervent hope that visitors will come away from this exhibition with a deeper awareness of Africa’s global reach and with a genuine appreciation of the cultural contributions of Africans and people of African descent.”

“Grass Roots” traces the parallel histories of coiled basketry in Africa and the United States, starting from the domestication of rice in West Africa, through the transatlantic slave trade, to the migration of African rice culture to America. The exhibition, which addresses the history of the Carolina rice plantations and highlights technological innovations brought to American agriculture by people from Africa, tells the compelling story of the survival of African-American basketry over 300 years. While the need for agricultural forms has declined, coiled baskets continue to be made as objects of beauty. The exhibition focuses on the coastal town of Mt. Pleasant, S.C., across the Cooper River from Charleston, where basket makers have taken control of their craft as independent entrepreneurs.

On both sides of the Atlantic, the art of basketry continues to be passed down from generation to generation. In South Carolina and Georgia, as in many parts of Africa, virtuoso basket makers invent forms, experiment with new materials and perfect the techniques they have learned from their parents and grandparents. The exhibition features baskets made by contemporary American and African basket makers as well as historic examples, some dating to the early 19th century from Low Country rice plantations and African villages.

“Grass Roots” includes five short films that feature basket makers demonstrating their techniques and telling their stories. Botanists describe experiments in the cultivation of sweet grass and archival footage shows rice processing and basket making in Africa.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Local South African Art in Full Flower at Major Sale

Irma Stern's still lifes will take pride of place, and sculpture gets a showing, writes Christina Kennedy.

Stephen N Welz says there is an interesting conundrum about South African art on auction.

Welz, who heads up fine art auction house Strauss & Co, says: "It is easier to sell a R1-million painting than a run-of-the-mill R10000 painting - unless the latter is a remarkable example of the artist's work. The lower market is feeling the pinch, but you'll find that those who could afford to pay R1-million can still afford to pay that."

This would suggest that entry-level collectors could pick up some bargains at the Johannesburg Country Club in Woodmead on May 24, if they have the cash available. That is when Strauss & Co's next fine art auction takes places. Welz describes it as "undoubtedly the largest number of major paintings to come on to the market for a long time".

A selection of prime Irma Stern still lifes from different periods of the artist's career will take pride of place. Still Life with Gladioli and Fruit is estimated to fetch R4.5-million, and Welz says Still Life With Dahlias and Fruitcould set a collector back R6-million.

Also going under the hammer is JH Pierneef's 1949 painting Barberton, which should fetch up to R1-million. "It's one of Pierneef's more painterly landscapes," says Welz.

There are also a number of works by the likes of Alexis Preller, Maggie Laubser, Maurice van Essche and Maud Sumner up for auction, with Welz advising that Sumner is an "underpriced" South African artist whose work should make a sound investment - especially her The Thames at Sunset. Preller's major work, The Flower King is a noteworthy addition to the auction palette.

Other major artists whose work can be snapped up are William Kentridge, Colbert Mashile, Robert Hodgins, Helen Sebidi and Gregoire Boonzaier.

A fascinating feature of the auction is a number of sculptures by a loose association of artists known as the Amadlozi Group - Edoardo Villa, Cecil Skotnes, Sydney Kumalo, Giuseppe Cattaneo and Cecily Sash.

Amadlozi - meaning "spirit of the ancestors" - held their first exhibition, co-curated by art dealer Egon Guenther, in his Johannesburg gallery in October 1963. The exhibition also toured Italy, but they never exhibited again together as the Amadlozi Group. Despite this, the influence of these pioneering artists' on the development of South African art is regarded as profound.

Welz talks about the "last-chance syndrome" of auctions, when a collector who has been waiting years for a particular work will "beg, borrow or steal" the money to purchase it. "Most art collectors buy with their hearts," he says. "The investment aspect is there, but is relatively low."

He says that "in the 40 years I've been in the industry, South African art has held up remarkably well, and now people who had confidence in it are reaping the rewards. "

By: Christina Kennedy

Monday, May 17, 2010

After French Restitution of Maori Heads, African Sacred Artifacts Next?

A mummified Maori warrior head at the Rouen museum, in France, finally returns home to New Zealand after more than 200 years. This unexpected decision also concerns 15 other heads in several museums across France. The issue was triggered by a bill that was originally passed by the French Senate in June 2009 and adopted Thursday, April 29, by the majority in the National Assembly. It came into effect on Tuesday. But could this new legislation revolutionize the landscape in what concerns the restitution of African cultural assets?

Eight years after the passage of a bill that saw the handing over of the remains of Saartje Baartman, a.k.a. the Hottentot Venus, to South Africa the adoption of a new French law by an overwhelming majority could encourage the debate on the restitution of cultural property.
Thursday, April 29, members of the National Assembly voted en masse to adopt a bill that seeks the return of 15 mummified Maori heads, dotted around several French museums, back to New Zealand.

Proposed by Catherine Morin-Desailly, centrist Senator of Rouen, the bill was accepted by the Senate last June (2009) without amendment, by all present.

And the solemn vote that took place Tuesday, May 4, marks a point of no return towards a final adoption of the bill, with 457 MPs in favor and a meager 8 against.

The decision comes as a total surprise, considering that a request for the return of one of the Maori heads, at the Rouen Museum, had been rejected by the French authorities some three years ago, after some enthusiasts argued that other collections could be affected.

But is this the end of the road for countries seeking the return of their cultural property?

Although uncertain, Abdoulaye Camara, former president of the Museum of African Art in Dakar believes that "it’s a huge leap forward. Before this law, European museums did not want to hear about restitution. Now they are beginning to consider it. This can set into motion the issue of restitution of African cultural property."

It is a complex bill that only concerns human remains for now. Human remains that some museum officials have said could have been products of murders perpetrated in the search for exotic collector items in Europe in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

But "can humans be considered a collector’s item?" Asks Mr. Camara. The answer is yes. And it is precisely on this point that this new legislation could be considered as being revolutionary.
It seeks to "reactivate" a procedure to downgrade public collections deemed "inalienable". The procedure is expected to allow for the return home of many human remains exhibited as exotic oddities, more often than not, within the confines of Western museums.

"The ordinary mind can hardly fathom how these human remains could have stayed without burial, and far from their homeland," says an outraged Abdoulaye Camara.

And the French National Assembly (Parliamentary) Relations Minister Henri de Raincourt agrees: "From a ritual showing the respect of a tribe and family toward their dead, the mummified heads became the object of a particularly barbaric trade due to the curiosity of travelers and European collectors".

This piece of law therefore answers an ethical question that has been ignored for a long time. These human remains, which on the one hand are regarded as collectors’ items or pieces of art by Western art enthusiasts, and sacred by their own people on the other hand, can finally enjoy their long overdue homecoming and burial.

The preserved Maori head in Rouen was offered by an individual in 1875. Several cities around Europe, including Geneva, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London and Copenhagen have already responded positively to New Zealand’s request for restitution.

Last year, The Netherlands gave back the head of King Badu Bonsu II, beheaded in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) 171 years ago by the Dutch, to Ghana. His head had been preserved in formalin and kept in the reserves of a medical center.

In 2002, France gave the body of Saartjie Baartman back to South Africa. After her death, the South African woman’s corpse was cast in plaster and dissected, nicknamed The Hottentot Venus and displayed at the Museum of Mankind (Musée de l’Homme) in Paris.

"There are some things which are above art and which should remain sacred," Catherine Morin-Desailly told the Associated Press.

By: Alicia Koch, Patrick K. Johnsson

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ottawa Racers to Earn African Art

Medals hand-crafted in Africa will be awarded to runners who finish the two-kilometre family race at the upcoming Ottawa Race Weekend.

"It's all natural and it's really unique," said Carleton University student Taylor Wardle on Tuesday. She and her twin sister Breck watched some of the 3,000 medals being crafted by women in the seven villages of Cameroon's hot, mountainous Lebialem Valley.

"They're all handmade and they've all been slaved on so long," added Taylor, who was in the African nation to help run education projects with the North Bay, Ont.-based non-profit group International Children's Awareness Canada.

The medals, designed by Cameroonian artisan Bantu Freeman, are made of carefully sanded coconut shells, bamboo shoots and agejiga (ajuga) seeds.

The organizers of the May 29 race decided to buy 3,000 of them to support the Women's Jewelry Project and help its workers earn wages to pay for food, medical care, school fees and clothing for their families.

"We thought, 'Well, we have to purchase medals anyway…Why don't we do something good at the same time?'" said Jim Robinson, general manager of Run Ottawa, the group organizing the race weekend.

According to Run Ottawa, the medals have generated $10,000 for the local economy within the Lebialem Valley, which has a population of about 10,000.

Edward Smith, president of International Children's Awareness Canada, which runs health and education projects in the Lebialem Valley, first bought a batch of medals for a small race in North Bay. He saw an opportunity to expand at the Ottawa Race Weekend.

The Wardle twins said racers who receive the medals should be proud.

"They should feel like they're being part of something," said Taylor.

"Making a difference," Breck added.

About 36,000 people are expected to take part in the Ottawa Race Weekend, which runs May 29-30. Events include a marathon, half-marathon, 10-kilometre, five-kilometre and two-kilometre race. As of Tuesday, the two-kilometre race was the only event that was still open for registration, as all the other events are full.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sizing Up A Shift In Boston’s Art Scene

Last week’s news that the Judi Rotenberg Gallery will close its doors in late June comes as a blow to the contemporary art scene in Boston and to the gallery scene on Newbury Street.

The gallery opened in 1971, and for many years it was a sleepy venue for expressionist art. Judi Rotenberg’s daughter Abigail Ross Goodman took the helm in 2001, and together with codirector Kristen Dodge turned the gallery into a space for smart, provocative, often cutting-edge art. Their roster includes hot commodities such as the video and performance team Carlson/Strom and conceptual artist Dave Cole, who has knit, among other things, a giant American flag, using utility poles as needles.

Several galleries have closed or left Newbury Street in the last two years, many due to the struggling economy. Ross Goodman says that closing Rotenberg is a personal decision, not an economic one. “I’m ready to shift my relationship to the art world in a new direction,’’ she said in an interview.

There are still strong art galleries on Newbury Street, such as its flagship Barbara Krakow Gallery, as well as Miller Block Gallery and Gallery NAGA, among others. Maybe with a reviving economy, new commercial galleries will open there. But with the exit of Rotenberg, the street is languishing; Harrison Avenue has a higher concentration of galleries, and a more forward-thinking approach to art.

Ross Goodman and Dodge developed a powerful presence and an attention to young, emerging artists in a neighborhood where the art tends to be more conservative. They also kept their commitment to many of the painters the gallery represented before they came on, straddling two demographics, and opening a world of video and conceptual art to collectors of paintings.

They have embodied and helped finesse a shift of interest in Boston toward truly contemporary art, spearheaded by the revitalized Institute of Contemporary Art. It’s sad to see them go.

Two galleries that show traditional art have exhibits up that are evidence of a growing local passion for new work. “Clothes Make the Man?’’ at Childs Gallery and “Counterpoint: The Voices of John Walker and African Art’’ at the Hamill Gallery of Tribal Art mix contemporary art with the venues’ regular inventory. Both exhibits are ambitious.

Hamill Gallery has a better space to work with — a lofty space that suits the often large-scale, bold, juicy abstract paintings of John Walker, who has chosen an array of masks and sculptures to exhibit with his work. The matchup, even under pallid fluorescent lights, is stunning.

These paintings, many never before exhibited, date from the 1980s to the present. A viewer can follow Walker’s signature forms: the rectilinear hourglass inspired by Goya’s portrait of the Duchess of Alba; the soldier with a sheep’s head who represents the artist’s father, a World War I veteran; the more recent tidal landscapes, playgrounds for paint inspired by summers in Maine. There are occasional direct evocations of tribal art: a shield from Papua New Guinea appears in “Oceania for Rachel.’’

The crosscultural connections are breathtaking. “Homage to My Father’’ features the sheep-headed soldier moldering in dark ochre tones (and a white halo) as well as a cartoon version of the figure. Several sheep’s-head puppets from Mali perch nearby, leering, funny, and dark, accentuating the painting’s morbidity and its magic.

Three gorgeous landscapes grouped together sport high horizon lines. To look at them is to drop into what lies below that line — muddy low tide coursing with gullies and dotted with boulders, or underwater, with glimpses of fish and serpentine sea creatures. Sitting before the paintings on a low platform are three Nigerian headdresses representing fish, in the same gray, speckled tones as two of the paintings. In a corner, a bird sculpture from Guinea has an S-curved neck that echoes the snaking form in the painting beside it.

The confluences between Walker’s paintings and the African objects add a startling dimension to canvases already roiling with life and grief.

“Clothes Make the Man?,’’ curated by William Stover, late of the contemporary department at the Museum of Fine Arts, also makes some terrific pairings, but the exhibit suffers from being crammed to the rafters of Childs Gallery, where it is hung salon-style.

The show examines costume and performance’s part in the perception of identity, a theme prevalent in contemporary art lately. It includes work by Triiibe and Caleb Cole, who photograph themselves in costume, and drawings by Cobi Moules and Ria Brodell, who examine gender through self-portraits. Brodell’s subdued “Self-Portrait as an Old Man (whittling)’’ hangs beneath an undated 20th-century portrait by Leo Blake, “The Sheriff,’’ who, like Brodell’s old man, is grizzled and gruff.

It’s a delight to look at some of the older works, such as William Merritt Chase’s charming 1881 painting “Dancing Girl,’’ through Stover’s 21st-century lens. Plump and blushing, with her hand to her forehead, the Italian street dancer performs for change. She has put on her demeanor, just as she has put on her clothes, and just as the three women in Triiibe, across the gallery, doll themselves up to go bar hopping in “Compatibility Quiz.’’

By: Cate McQuaid

Friday, May 14, 2010

Soccer Art From Fifa 2010

(Jackson Hlungwane, Hand of God, 1989. Wood. 88.5 x 55 cm. )

(Gerard Bhengu, A Goal, 1926. Pencil and watercolour on paper. 21.3 x 33.2 cm.)

(William Kentridge, Bicycle Kick, 2009. Official FIFA art poster. 100 x 70 cm.)

This (football) flagship exhibition, will showcase a range of artworks that respond to the global phenomenon of soccer and the passion it evokes. The exhibition, which runs from 1 June to 17 July 2010, focuses on the African continent, with a significant South African component and, of course, the enthusiastic support for the South African national team is featured prominently.

Artworks are drawn from the Standard Bank African Art Collection and from other South African collections, as well as loans from international sources and several specifically commissioned works. Designed to showcase the full spectrum of cultural manifestations of the love of soccer, the exhibition includes makarapas (crafted soccer helmets), vuvuzelas (embellished soccer trumpets), commercially produced soccer merchandise (such as clothing and taxi bumper stickers) as well as personal tributes created by adoring fans and fine art by internationally acclaimed artists.

Other components of the show are local cartoons from the popular press such as Super Strikers, in-depth analyses such as BBC’s History of soccer: The Beautiful Game starring soccer legend Pele, and photographic essays, for example, a feature on African soccer audiences by Nigerian filmmaker and photographer Andrew Dosunmu. Historical and contemporary artworks are included, from a Zulu staff commemorating Bafana Bafana captain Neil Tovey, to a commissioned sculpture by Johannes Maswanganyi.

The exhibition title is drawn from the traditional South African celebratory cry on a goal being scored. The exhibition is curated by Fiona Rankin-Smith of the Wits Art Museum, and will be accompanied by a catalogue of images and essays.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Santa Cruz Bank Hosts African Art Collection

Since opening its doors in 2004, Santa Cruz County Bank has taken on an unlikely second role -- an art museum.

The bank has about four exhibits a year, and while only local art has been displayed in the past, the bank now welcomes its first international exhibit.

"Circle of Life" is a collection of works from seven Zimbabwean artists. The art, which is currently on display, will remain up until July 9, and a reception will be held May 7. Mary Anne Carson, director of the Santa Cruz County Bank Arts Collaborative, heard about the collection, owned by Jess and Laura Brown, and contacted the couple in the hopes they'd be interested in sharing their art with the community.

"We like the public to have artwork that hasn't been seen before," said Carson, who is also the bank's senior vice president and director of marketing.

There are about 60 pieces in the exhibit, including sculptures and the paintings. The paintings are now up in the Aptos, Capitola, Scotts Valley and Watsonville offices, while the sculptures are on display in the bank's downtown Santa Cruz location.

Carson said the paintings are full of life and vibrancy, a stark contrast to the country's current economic and political climate.

"I was very impressed with the work and how colorful and vibrant and joyous the works are," she said.

The artwork creates an intersection where people can gather.

"It's our way of connecting the bank with our community and welcomingthe community into our bank," she said.

Jess Brown, the collector as well as the executive director of the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau, began volunteering in Zimbabwe in 1998. While there, he helped bring small-scale farmers together to form larger communities that could work together to yield more efficient and productive crops.

"The economy and politics is really bad over there," Brown said. "I really believe in these people and I want to help them"

His collection includes more than 100 pieces, ranging from paintings to sculptures. All of the pieces in the exhibit are for sale, and all of the money made will go directly back to the artists.

The bright colors and interpretation of life illustrates the hope they have as a people, he said.

"There's such vibrancy and joy in the paintings," he said.

Curator Joan Blackmer was touched by the sincerity in the work.

"I could feel the heat of the sun, I could feel the connection to the community," she said of the paintings. "There was a depth to how the figures were relating to each other."

The sculptures in the exhibit are Shona sculptures, an ancient process that enables spirits in the stone to be acknowledged in a more recognizable form. The sculptures on display in the bank combine ancient and contemporary principles, she said.

"They're really building on their cultural sensibilities and philosophies," she said.

Working as the curator for the bank's art collaborative has allowed Blackmer to be part of an emerging scene while sharing her love of art.

"It's exciting because it's developed into part of the arts community," she said. "Art enriches our lives."

Brown and his wife have long collected local art, but he feels a special connection to the people of Zimbabwe. Their art shows hope and inspiration, as well as the deep connection to community and culture. Most people who have seen the collection have been impressed with the spirit, he said.

"You smile," he said. "You feel good about it."

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel

By: Justine DaCosta

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Skinner Holds American Indian & Enthnographic Art Auction

Skinner, Inc.’s Boston gallery will offer on Saturday, May 15th some of the most interesting American Indian & Ethnographic Art to go on the block in some time. The auction features just shy of 650 works, some pieces dating back thousands of years. Represented are Pre-Columbian, Tribal and American Indian artifacts.

American Indian

A gem of the sale is a rare Hawken plains percussion rifle, c. second quarter 19th century. The gun was a product of the S. Hawken company of St. Louis, of which only about 300 are known. Brothers Samuel and Jacob Hawken were trained as rifle smiths by their father on the East Coast, but moved West and set up shop in St. Louis as fur trading became an industry. Their “plains rifles” were highly sought by Western customers that needed a light gun that could take down a big target. This piece represents the best example of early classic plains rifles and came to Skinner from a Midwestern woman whose father was an avid gun collector. The rifle is estimated to sell between $30,000 and $40,000.

Another sale highlight is a rare plains pictorial beaded suitcase from the Lakota tribe, c. late 19th century. This museum-quality piece features multicolored pictorial beadwork on buffalo hide covering a commercial leather and metal period suitcase. The suitcase comes from the estate of Mary Anne Claymore, whose family shares a long history in the West. Only one or two of these bags have surfaced and wear and tear suggests Native American use; the bag was most likely not a tourist piece. According to Douglas Deihl, director of American Indian and Ethnographic Art at Skinner, “The detailed depiction of scenes of American Indian life on this bag is amazing, with some of the faces done in small-cut beadwork even. A work like this doesn’t come along very often and, as such, we have great expectations for this piece.” The bag is estimated at $40,000 to $60,000.

Other featured American Indian items include a central plains pictorial beaded and quilled hide pipebag, also from the estate of Mary Anne Claymore, and estimated at $10,000 to $15,000, as well as several Northwest Coast pieces highlighted by a carved wood bowl, c. early 19th century, carved in the form of a seal, the head with early Russian trade bead eyes, estimated at $15,000 to $20,000. The sale also offers an amazing photo collection from the late Edward McAndrews including many early card de visite and photos of warriors with their weapons. A fine selection of weavings and pottery will also be available.


Over 200 lots of pre-Columbian material will be offered including a varied and vast selection of wearable jewelry, made of rock crystal, carnelian and gold and some with modern 18 kt. gold clasps. According to Deihl, “Now is a great time to invest in pre-Columbian artifacts. Much of what is being offered in this sale is coming from retired collectors making the opportunity to collect even more attractive.”

Of note in pre-Columbian offerings is a polychrome pottery jaguar tripod bowl from Costa Rica estimated at $1,500 to $2,000; a Carved Stone Mortar, Peru, c. 500-100 B.C., in a feline form estimated at $3,000 to $5,000; and two Nazca weavings from Peru, c. 200-600 A.D, both loosely woven green panel bordered on two sides with knit polychrome “munecas” figures, each estimated at $300 to $500.

African and Tribal

Tribal material up for bid includes a fine group of Maori carved weaponry. Of interest is a Maori carved wood quarter staff, Tewhatewha, 19th century, inlaid with abalone and estimated at $4,000 to $6,000. African highlights include a rare African carved Wood Mask, Mbole, in a shield-like form estimated at $8,000 to $12,000 and an African wood and metal reliquary figure, Gabon, Kota, estimated at $5,000 to $7,000.

Catalog, Preview and Event Information
Previews for the auction will be Thursday, May 13th, 12 to 5 p.m., Friday, May 14th, 12 to 8 p.m., and Saturday, May 15th, 8 to 9:30 a.m.

Illustrated catalog #2506 is available by mail for $35 ($42 for foreign requests) from the subscription department at 508-970-3000 x3240. It is also available at the gallery for $32. Prices realized will be available at during and after the sale. Skinner’s site also allows users to view all lots in the auctions, leave bids, order catalogs, and bid live in real-time through Skinner-Live, Skinner’s live online bidding applet.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

CORRECTED - Definitive Tribal Art Week Event List

In a comedy of errors we managed to publish not one but two incomplete lists of events taking place in New York this week. Apologies to all.

Last night kicked off with a great exhibition at Giltsoff. Exhibiting on Madison Avenue out of Mallet, the very high-end English furniture dealer, John showed a range of beautiful objects. My favorites included a great Tiki, at $90,000 a bargain compared to the Sotheby's Tiki sold last month ;-). Other favorites included a wood Maori hand club and a rare and beautiful Songye shield. Every object was of the highest quality.
The Bonham's opening was also very well attended and I saw many of the important European dealers in attendance. Bonham's Tribal, now run by Fred Backlar, have many fine, affordable objects and their auction should do well.




African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art

Exhibition Location: New York
Saturday, 8 May 10, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Sunday, 9 May 10, 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Monday, 10 May 10, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Tuesday, 11 May 10, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Wednesday, 12 May 10, 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday, 13 May 10, 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Location: New York
Session 1: Friday, 14 May 10, 10:00 AM


African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art Sale N08638
Exhibition Location: New York
Saturday, 8 May 2010, to Wednesday, 12 May 2010
Location: New York

Session 1: Thursday, 13 May,2010 1:00 PM


Group Shows:



John Giltsoff Cocktail Reception at Mallett 929 Madison Avenue 6:30-9pm

Bonhams Cocktail Reception 580 Madison Avenue 6-8pm

Sotheby’s Cocktail Reception 1334 York Avenue 6-8pm


Gallery Openings and Cocktail Receptions

Alaska on Madison
1065 Madison Avenue 5-9pm
Huber Primitive Art and David Bernstein Pre Columbian Art at Keszler Gallery
984 Madison Avenue 5-9pm Gail Martin Gallery 5 East 82nd Street, lower level 5-9pm
Nasser & Co. Gallery 49 East 78th Street 1B 5-9pm
Pace Primitive
32 East 57th Street, Seventh Floor 6-8pm
Arte Primitivo, Howard S Rose Gallery
3 East 65th Street 5-9pm
Tambaran Gallery
5 East 82nd Street 5-9pm
Throckmorton Fine Art
145 East 57th Street 5-9pm
Joris Visser
5 East 82nd Street, lower level 5-9pm


Hosted by Howard Nowes, Art For Etenity

303 East 81st Street

Opening Reception -Thursday May 13th 5-10pm. Champagne brunch - Saturday May 15th 9.30am - noon


Hosted by Bruce Frank with guest exhibitors: Michael Oliver and Craig De Lora.

May 12 - 16th

208 W. 83rd St NYC

OPENING RECEPTION Wednesday May 12th 6-9pm


Jo De Buck, Kellim Brown, James Stephenson, Peter-Michael Boyd, Amyas Naegele

AKA Hotel, 330 East 56th Street in New York City,

Opening reception: 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 12.

Visiting hours: 10 a.m. until 10 p.m., Thursday, May 13 through Saturday, May 15.

Post-auction hootenanny with jambalaya and open bar: 4 p.m. on Friday, May 14.


"Sacred Ancestors: The Art of the Tellem, Dogon & Bamana"

Opening Reception May 13, 5-9pm

Bonhams in New York City During Tribal Week

A major highlight of NYC Tribal Week is the Bonhams auction on Thursday May 13th, 2010 at 1pm.. The preview of the auction as already began, but there is still time: on Tuesday, May 11th and Wednesday May 12th from 10am to 5pm the lots can be examined. There is even an extended viewing period after the auction on Thursday, May 13th from 10am-1pm.

Bonham's Fine African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art sales feature unique and traditional works from sub-Saharan Africa, Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Indonesia and Australia that were created in the early 20th Century or earlier, and works from Central and South America that were created prior to European Contact in the 16th Century. Made by the artists for religious, ceremonial or secular use within their culture, objects in the sale include figurative sculpture, masks, reliquaries, shrines, architectural ornaments, clubs, shields, vessels, stools, neck rests, instruments, body adornment and many daily utilitarian objects.

Recognizing the strong interest in African, Oceanic and Pre-Columbian Art on both the East and the West Coasts, Bonham's auctions are held twice annually in New York and San Francisco. Our New York sales feature a diverse selection of premier items while the San Francisco sales showcase more affordable works of art. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies each auction and is distributed worldwide to collectors, dealers and institutions. A public preview precedes each auction where guests are invited to view artwork first-hand and encouraged to ask questions.

A highlight from the sale (pictured above) is an important Bamana Ntomo Mask from Mail with an estimated value of $50,000 to $70,000.

For the full catalogue of lots on sale, click here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

World Record Set At Auction

In yet another sign of improving economic conditions in the art market, history was made at Christie’s last night when a Picasso, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, coming from the collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody, sold for $106,482,500 (₤70,278,450 €81,991,525) to an anonymous bidder, setting a new world record for any work of art sold at auction. The Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale realized a total of $335,548,000 (£221,461,680/Є258,317,960), and also achieved world records for Braque and Rafaelli.

The Evening Sale portion of the Mrs. Sidney F. Brody Collection became the highest total for a single-owner sale offered at Christie's New York. The 27 lots from the Brody Collection achieved $224,177,500/£147,957,150/€172,616,675 and were 100% sold by lot and value. Overall, 30 lots sold above the $1 million mark and 9 lots sold above the $10 million mark. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Brody Collection will be donated the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, CA, where the late Mrs. Brody was a guiding patron.

The Various Owners portion of the sale yielded four more prices above the $10 million mark for works by Giacometti, Picasso, and Renoir, as well as a new world auction record for Raffaelli. The top lot of the section was a stunning 1947 sculpture of a human hand by Giacometti, La Main, which sold for $25,842,500 (₤35,166,450/€41,027,525). Two further works by Pablo Picasso also sold above expectations as Femme au chat assise dans un fauteuil, 1964, realized $18,002,500 (₤11,881,650/€13,861,925) and another work of the same year, Le peintre et son modèle, 1964, sold for $10,722,500 (₤7,076,850/€8,256,325).

Sotheby's African, Oceanic and Pre Columbian Art Sale, Preview Begins May 8th

Sotheby’s spring sale of African, Oceanic and Pre Columbian Art will be held on 14 May 2010 and will offer collectors a selection of tribal arts from important American and international private collections. The auction comprises an especially rich offering of Oceanic works of art, many of which are icons of the field. Prior to the auction, the works, which are estimated to bring more than $5.1 million, will be exhibited to the public at Sotheby’s New York galleries beginning 8 May 2010.

Oceanic Art

The spring auction will comprise works from the JOLIKA Collection of Marcia and John Friede, led by the sale’s star lot, a Biwat (Mundugumor) Male Ancestor Spirit Figure from a Sacred Flute, wusear, Papua New Guinea (est. $1/1.5 million). No figure as complete or of such high quality is known ever to have appeared at auction. One of the most iconic genres of Melanesian art, wusear are male spirit figures that were placed on top of the sacred flutes of the Biwat people on the shores of the middle Yuat River in Papua New Guinea. Vertically inserted into the bamboo flute, wusear were effigies who ‘spoke’ through the flute, and were sacred property of a clan. Also offered from the JOLIKA collection are an Asmat Shield, Unir (Lorenz) River, Irian Jaya (est. $70/100,000) and a Middle Sepik River Gable Mask, Papua New Guinea, that once belonged to Bela Hein, the legendary early 20th century Paris-based dealer and collector of African art (est. $120/180,000).

Also among the Oceanic works on offer is a Hawaiian Feather Cape formerly in the collection of the Niagara Falls Museum, Canada (est. $300/500,000). Feather-covered shoulder capes are widely recognized and appreciated hallmarks of traditional Hawaiian culture; the present example features brilliantly colored red, black and yellow feathers. No two capes are alike in their design and most were created for specific individuals. Also formerly in the collection of the Niagara Falls Museum, an Austral Islands Chief Necklace will be offered (est. $300/500,000). Austral necklaces of this type are among the rarest and most sought after of all Polynesian artifacts. No more than twenty are known to exist and among these the present example is unique in having so many ivory and bone elements.

African Art

Among the African works on offer is a Banda Ancestor Figure from the Ubangi Region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that is attributed to the Master of Mobaye (est. $250/400,000). For a traditionally anonymous art form such as African Art, the notion of an individual artist is rare, and only a handful of artists are known by name. Only eight figures have been attributed to the Master of Mobaye, who was active in the second half of the 19th century.

A Rare Fang-Betsi Reliquary Ensemble will also be offered, featuring a male ancestor figure with its original container used to house family relics (est. $250/350,000). Complete Fang reliquary ensembles consisting of a bark container for the relics of deceased clan elders surmounted by a sculptural element made of wood, such as a head, torso, or full figure, are exceedingly rare.

A Fang Reliquary Head from Gabon (est. $150/250,000), featured left, boasts an exceptional provenance which parallels the influence of African art on modern art throughout the 20th century. Among the storied line of owners of the present lot: gallerist and early partner of Alfred Stieglitz, Marius de Zayas: distinguished New York collector John Quinn, who in 1919 commissioned Charles Sheeler to photograph the work as part of a portfolio of his African collection; Joseph Brummer, who was well known as Constantin Brancusi’s dealer but perhaps lesser known as one of the foremost dealers of African art in the early 20th century; French painter and famed African collector André Derain; noted New York 1960s and 1970s dealer of African Art Merton D. Simpson; and Carlo Monzino, one of Italy’s leading collectors of Post-war art.

Pre-Columbian Art

The Pre-Columbian section of the auction features a rare Taino Wood Snuffer, Haiti, ca. AD 1300-1500, (est. $80/120,000), one of only three known examples. The slender tubular object would have been used in the elite shamanic cohoba ceremonies; the inhalation of the fine cohoba powder induced a ritual hallucinatory experience. It is carved with a bird-man figure, representing the transformation and journey of a shaman. Originally acquired in the 1930's, the snuffer has been in one family's collection.

A Large Vera Cruz seated figure, Classic, ca. AD 450-650, of the El Zapotal style, a form which rarely appears at auction, is another highlight of the sale (est. $125/150,000). The seated figure of a young warrior has an intense and life-like expression, shown with minimal accoutrements or clothing, emphasizing an inner strength and spirit.

Several single-owner groupings will also be featured, including a variety of Central American gold animal pendants, and a fine group of Costa Rican polychrome ceramics from a Private Collection. The sale also includes a selection of stone and ceramic Andean and Central American figures from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, all of which were published in the 1983 and 1985 Sackler catalogues.

From Mexico and the Maya areas, the auction includes West Mexican figures from the collection of Benjamin Johnson- a noted conservator and art historian from Los Angeles; Fine Maya stucco polychrome head of a dignitary, Late Classic, ca. A.D. 550-950 (est. $25/35,000); and two 19th C. casts of the famous 7th C. Yaxchilan lintels 24 and 25, featuring Lady Xoc in her bloodletting and hallucinatory ceremonies celebrating the accession of her husband Shield Jaguar (est. $10/15,000 and $12/15,000 respectively).